South Korea Policy Recommendations

Spotlight Activity: South Korea Policy Recommendations

South Korea accounts for approximately 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions (including LULUCF), according to World Resources Institute (2006)’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) 3.0. In its Paris Agreement INDC pledge, South Korea plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37% from the business-as-usual (BAU, 850.6 MtCO2eq) level by 2030 across all economic sectors. In accordance with the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth, South Korea has pledged to make continued efforts to address climate change across all economic sectors and will strengthen its efforts to achieve the 2030 Paris Agreementmitigation target. (See my earlier posts released in May 2017 and June 2018.)

In July 2018, almost one year after the current Moon Jae-in administration inaugurated, the South Korean Government announced a new plan to comply with its international pledge, 37% reduction from its BAU level. According to this new plan, South Korea will increase the share of domestic mitigation up to 32.5% (equivalent to 96 million ton), which was 25.7% previously. 

In the sector of energy conversion (power generation, collective energy), the reduction of about 24 million tons will be confirmed by measuring the policy of conversion to fine dust-reducing and environment-friendly energy. The government is planning to scale up this target to approximately 34 million tons when setting the 3rd energy basic plan, and it will support reaching this goal with energy tax reform. The government will provide further details on this effort when it submits the revised National Decision Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations in 2020.

The industrial sector is expected to cut about 98 million tons of emissions through improvements in industrial processes, energy savings and the spread of excellent reduction technologies. In the building sector, it will reduce 65 million tons through strengthening energy standards for new buildings and revitalizing existing buildings. In the transport sector, by the year 2030, 3 million electric vehicles will be supplied and 31 million tons of emissions will be reduced by means of eco-friendly public transportation. In addition, it plans to reduce 11 million tons of carbon dioxide by using CO2 capture, storage and utilization technology (CCUS) reducing waste, revitalizing recycling, strengthening public sector greenhouse gas and energy target management system.

Policy Recommendations

In order to ensure its strengthened commitment to the UNFCCC, South Korea´s main tackling areas and plans should be:

  1. Reduce Coal Use for Power Generation

South Korea’s power generation is too dependent on coal. As of 2016, 30% of its total installed electricity generating capacity is occupied by coal-fired power plants, and 40% of actual power generation is from coal-fired power plants, which means coal-fired power plants are fully or even overly operated. This is one of the major concerns South Korea has to deal with, however, and in the 2019 plan introduced above, it is not clearly mentioned. The South Korean government should interrelate this new plan with its 8th basic plan for electricity supply and the upcoming 5th basic plan for energy.


  1. Encourage EV and Discouraging Diesel Vehicles

South Korea is becoming more road-connected than rail-connected, and the number of diesel vehicles has been rising. In 2017, the total number of diesel vehicle was 9,576,395, which is almost 50% increase compared to 6,483,423 in 2010. Diesel vehicles are a major culprit of air pollution and greenhouse gas emission. The government needs to make efforts to transfer diesel vehicle owners to more eco-friendly vehicles like EV.

Activity Rating: *** Right Direction

Increasing domestic emission instead of relying on the international market is a good direction, however, the government needs to synthesize sporadic targets and guidelines and direct specific targets and assignments to responsible players.

Take Action

Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below. 

Dear Minister Cho Myung-rae (New Minister of Environment)

We recommend that your Ministry update the greenhouse gas emissions pledge of South Korea to the Paris Agreement before November 2020. Your updated pledge should be aimed at reaching a target your ministry presented last year. We recommend that you implement the following policies in order to reach this target: Reducing Coal Use for Power Generation and Encouraging EV and Discouraging Diesel Vehicles mentioned above.

Send Action Alert Message to:

Ministry of Environment

Government Complex-Sejong, 11, 

Doum 6-Ro, Sejong-si, 30103, Republic of Korea

Leave a Reply


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.